About Jane Irish's Work

Irish received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (1977) and her MFA from Queens College, City Univeristy of New York (1980). She has received grants and awards from the New York Council on the Arts (CAPS 1981), NEA (1982), the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (1982,84); the Independence Foundation (2008), and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant (2009); Pew Fellowships in the Arts (2011). Recent residencies are Joan Mitchell Center New Orleans (2016), Due South, Palermo Italy (2016) Carmargo Bau Cassis France (2014), and Klots Residency Lehon France (2011). She has been featured in numerous group exhibitions at venues such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Galleries at Moore College of Art and Design; the Paul Robeson Gallery, Rutgers University, Newark; the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery; the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, The Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. In 2007, her work has been seen in New York City venues including the New York First Annual Contemporary Art Invitational at the Salmagundi Club and at the Aidan Savoy Gallery. Irish was a recognized painter during the East Village art scene era, showing regularly at Sharpe Gallery, NY from 1981-89. She has also worked as the Artistic Director of Chester Springs Studio, Chester Springs Pa, where she curated several projects featuring both Philadelphia-based and nationally recognized artists, receiving major funding from the Pew Exhibitions Initiative their inaugural year for the exhibition "Reenactment/Rapprochement.” In 2005, she organized a major exhibition called "Operation Rapid American Withdrawal, 1970/2005 Exhibition," at the Crane Arts Ice Box Gallery in Philadelphia.

Irish's work can be found in public collections of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania; LaSalle University, Philadelphia; Museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; Women’s Hall of Fame Seneca Falls New York; and numerous private collections. Reviews of her work have appeared in major publications, such as The Village Voice, The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Art in America, ArtForum, Arts Magazine, ArtNews, and Flash Art.

About Artistic Vision
Painting in egg tempera on large-scale canvas, paper and Tyvek, I infuse sumptuous interiors with memories of colonialism and orientalism. I incorporate imagery from my own travels through France and Vietnam, manipulating depth and angle to blur distinctions between inside and outside, landscape and décor. I have incorporated text in previous bodies of work, combining labyrinthine interiors with the motifs and poetry of Vietnam War veterans. Alongside my painting output, I create ceramic vases that address questions of beauty and meaning through decorative and cultural patterns. My most recent ceramic vessels take the form of a cirque (an amphitheater-like mountain valley) and also contemplate blue and white Vietnamese wares. Continuing my interest in the legacy of the Vietnam war, the shape is symbolic of the ancient spiritual landscape of Vietnam, and the natural amphitheater settings in which the American anti-war protest movement chose to rally and march.

I began commemorating heroic resistance in 2000; I was impressed with the passionate responses of returning soldiers and marines to this experience and by the activism of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). To me their action is a model for being an artist.

Now my work often concentrates on the beauty of Vietnam and the spirit of the Vietnamese people. They triumphed over French colonialism and our own imperialism; in a way, the stories of American veterans are similarly triumphant. Vietnam, the landscape and culture, possesses a beautiful aesthetic, something often ignored in our histories. I wish to celebrate the intrinsic, aesthetic beauty of Vietnam in my art and devote my life to a gesture which negates the effects of war in some small way. I am painting beautiful paintings of Vietnam because we destroyed that country. Through concentration on subject, I hope to thematize the relation of my own complex cultural location as an American woman in understanding webs of war and visual culture.

I engage in research to understand trade routes from Vietnam’s export harbors to Egypt, Japan, India, and Africa. The subtext of the French East India Company and French Foreign Mission is visually signified in may paintings since 2011, which are based on the visual vocabulary of Malouiniere chateaus owned by 18th century Breton shipping magnates. Today, I am expanding my narrative in cosmological ways. I am working on a creation myth cycle of paintings (Vietnam reparations) inspired by intuitive leaps and rigorous methodology of Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka.

I paint from reality; for example, during my 2013 experience in Florence, I painted for three weeks, given special entre into museum and private palazzo interiors. This broadened my work from French rococo-style painting, to an investigation of painting itself, the cultural origins of European painting. I want the courage to make contact. I love seeing real paintings; I love meeting real people, experiencing real places and to paint from life. To be able to do those things, I have to get outside of myself and help people and go to places that inspire me or broaden me.